'After I lost the election': Trump seems to acknowledge 2020 loss in new book interview

Former President Donald Trump briefly acknowledged that he “lost” the 2020 election to Joe Biden in a new book about his years as a reality television star, according to an excerpt first obtained by Yahoo News.

"Apprentice in Wonderland: How Donald Trump and Mark Burnett Took America Through the Looking Glass," written by Variety co-editor in chief Ramin Setoodeh, recounts an August 2021 conversation between Setoodeh and Trump about Geraldo Rivera, the Fox News host who competed on The Celebrity Apprentice in 2015.

Asked if he’s still on good terms with Rivera, Trump launched into a story about 2020.

"After I lost the election…," Trump began, before quickly trying to backtrack. "I won the election," he continued, "but then when they said we lost…"

Trump’s initial response seems to contradict everything he’s said publicly since Biden won the White House by more than 7 million votes on Nov. 3, 2020.

For years, Trump has loudly but falsely claimed that his 2020 election loss was somehow fraudulent — claims that have been exhaustivelydebunked by fact checkers and unanimously defeated in court. Regardless, Trump has weaponized these falsehoods to rally his MAGA base and secure the Republican Party's presidential nomination for a third time.

"For those who have been wronged and betrayed: I am your retribution," the former president said last year.

As a result, a full 70% of Trump supporters now believe the election was "rigged and stolen," according to a Yahoo News/YouGov poll from January; just 13% believe Biden "won fair and square."

Yet what Trump himself believes — behind the scenes — has long been the subject of intense debate.

During the 2022 Congressional hearings into Jan. 6 — an attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters who wanted to overturn the election results — multiple former staffers testified under oath that their boss had privately admitted to losing.

“Can you believe I lost to this effing guy?” Trump allegedly grumbled as he watched Biden on TV, according to testimony from former White House staffer Alyssa Farah Griffith.

And according to Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, Trump allegedly told Meadows, “I don’t want people to know we lost, Mark. This is embarrassing. Figure it out.”

Meanwhile, Trump's August 2023 federal indictment on charges of conspiring to overturn the results of a presidential election hinges, in part, on evidence that Trump knew his claims were false but spread them anyway.

"The Defendant was notified repeatedly that his claims were untrue — often by the people on whom he relied for candid advice on important matters, and who were best positioned to know the facts — and he deliberately disregarded the truth," the indictment reads.

In response, Trump has claimed that he was “listening to different people” and therefore couldn’t have perpetrated a criminal conspiracy because he actually believed what he was saying.

"When I added it all up, the election was rigged," the former president told NBC in 2023. "You know who I listen to? Myself. I saw what happened."

Yet the inadvertent slip reported in “Apprentice in Wonderland” — the first time Trump is known to have said “I lost the election” to a journalist — threatens to further undermine this defense.

Setoodeh describes the words “tumbling from Trump’s mouth, almost against his own will,” adding that the former president then “wince[d] in surprise.”

“It's a moment of candor that catches Trump off guard,” Setoodeh writes. “Even he can't believe he said it.”

After that, “the spin artist” in Trump “takes immediate control,” Setoodeh continued, “trying to erase this humiliating gaffe of speaking the truth — one that could alienate his base and cost him his pride.”

"I won the election, but then when they said we lost...," Trump corrected himself, appearing — in Setoodeh's words — "pleased at his own rapid backtracking."

Trump goes on to discuss playing phone tag with Rivera after Election Day and to dispute how Rivera characterized their conversation in a Nov. 13, 2020 tweet:

"I said, ‘That's a real betrayal,’" Trump told Setoodeh. "I didn't talk about how I was feeling. It was a phone call that lasted very quickly. … Just — 'Hey, how are you doing, Geraldo? How's it going?' He's not my psychiatrist!"

"Apprentice in Wonderland" will be published on June 18 by HarperCollins. Based on six interviews with Trump conducted between May 2021 and November 2023 at Trump Tower and Mar-a-Lago, the book is a portrait of the president in exile revisiting his time on "The Apprentice"  — and revealing how the lessons he learned in show business shaped his approach to governing.

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